No. 31/November 6, 2012

Prof. Walter Rosenthal: “The Founding of the Berlin Institute of Health: A Unique Opportunity for the German Science Landscape”

“The founding of the Berlin Institute of Health, (BIH) is a unique opportunity for the German science landscape to restructure the collaboration between a non-university research institution and a university medical center in the field of basic and clinical research,” said Prof. Walter Rosenthal, chairman of the board and scientific director of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch. Speaking at a press conference with Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan and Berlin’s Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit in the Charité on November 6, 2012, he went on to say: “For politicians, German reunification was something unique, just as it was for me as a citizen. Something like that only happens once in a lifetime. And here in the field of science another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has presented itself – to participate in the creation of an entirely new research structure. I am therefore delighted that we can be part of the founding of the BIH.

“The planned cooperative venture with the Charité, which will harness the strengths and expertise of both partners, will significantly advance health research in Germany and also internationally,” said Prof. Jürgen Mlynek, president of the Helmholtz Association. “With this cooperation we especially want to promote translational research, that is, to more quickly translate findings from basic research into clinical applications for the benefit of patients.” The MDC is one of 18 research institutions of the Helmholtz Association, the largest research institution in Germany, and is funded to 90 percent by the Federal Government and to 10 percent by the State of Berlin.


The BIH has been established to combine the basic research of the MDC with the research of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The goal is to build up a leading international institute of health research that for the first time in Germany will pursue an interdisciplinary, holistic and systems-medical approach. This means that the research focus will shift away from specific diseases and towards the basic molecular causes of diseases, in order to develop new diagnostic methods, treatments and preventive measures. For the research of the BIH in the coming years, extensive technology platforms are being set up.


Added value for the MDC

Bringing together the research activities of the MDC and the Charité within the framework of the BIH will mean added value for the MDC. Since its founding, the MDC has pursued the transfer of basic research into clinical applications, known as translational medicine. “To achieve this, the MDC needs the Charité as a partner: Strong basic research and a strong clinical partner with its own excellent research must complement each other for the translation to succeed,” Prof. Rosenthal said. The new institute will provide the conditions to implement this. As before, the MDC will cooperate closely with the universities in Berlin and other biomedical institutions, so that Berlin as research location will be further strengthened.


Public corporation

The BIH will be established in 2015 by the State of Berlin as a public corporation. The MDC and the Charité will retain their respective identities as separate entities in the BIH. For the transition period 2013-2014 a cooperation agreement will regulate the cooperation between the two institutions in the BIH. “Accordingly, the legal form of the MDC will change, but it will retain its independence,” Prof. Rosenthal said.


MDC – a non-university research institution with an international reputation

The MDC was founded in January 1992 on the recommendation of the Science Council with the goal of combining molecular basic research with clinical research. Research activities of the MDC focus on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer, diseases of the nervous system and systems biology. In recent years the MDC has developed into an internationally recognized research institute. In the Thomson Reuters ranking, it ranked 14th among the world’s 20 best research institutions in the field of molecular biology and genetics.


The MDC (as of November 2, 2012) employs a total of 1,627 people from 57 countries (1,142 MDC employees and 485 guests), including 841 scientists and graduate students. The MDC has an annual budget of approximately 71 million euros, not counting external grants acquired by MDC scientists amounting to two-digit millions of euros.


The MDC and the Charité have been working together for many years. On Campus Berlin-Buch, already in 2007, the two institutions founded the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), where they promote cooperation between basic and clinical researchers on a project basis.


The MDC also participates in three of the six German Centers for Health Research, whose research activities focus on specific diseases and which thus complement the systems-medical approach of the BIH. The MDC is also represented in “Cardio Berlin” together with the Charité and the Deutsche Herzzentrum Berlin (DZHB, German Heart Institute) in the “German Centre for Cardiovascular Research” (DZHK). In addition, scientists of the MDC also collaborate with the Berlin site of the “German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases” (DZNE) and the “German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research” (DKTK).



Barbara Bachtler

Press Department

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch

in the Helmholtz Association

Robert-Rössle-Straße 10; 13125 Berlin; Germany

Phone: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 96

Fax:  +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 33